Healthcare organizations need vision and strategic guidance to keep their businesses on track, which is why executives like the CIO or vCIO are necessary. These professionals help you create an effective technology roadmap to achieve business IT goals, but there are a few key differences between the two roles.
How do you know if you need a CIO or vCIO? Below, we’ve provided an overview of each role to help you decide which one might be the best fit for your organization.
CIO vs. vCIO: What's the difference?
The Chief Information Office (CIO) is responsible for leading the company’s IT strategies. To effectively handle the structure and organization of the IT department, the CIO needs to successfully integrate the company’s IT goals with the rest of the business.
The CIO evaluates how various technologies benefit the company. They play a key role in critical initiatives — from data processes and IT security to algorithms and customer experience — with the intent to drive business growth while mitigating threats.
CIOs focus on goals rather than individual projects. They anticipate the company’s future IT needs and design the appropriate plan to implement the best solutions.
A virtual CIO (vCIO) performs the same functions as a conventional CIO but in an outsourced role. Whether working as a consultant or as part of managed services solution, a vCIO works remotely and carries a variety of responsibilities. They provide leadership and form strategies for budgeting, management, network security, IT infrastructure, business continuity, and more. They also make new tech recommendations to sustain business operations and accomplish the company’s business objectives.
Unlike a full-time CIO, a vCIO position is hired on an as-needed basis.
Pros and cons of a vCIO
Small and mid-sized businesses may not have the need or budget for a full-time CIO. For these companies, a vCIO can provide the same guidance and support at a fraction of the cost. Since it’s an outsourced position, businesses can eliminate peripheral costs like monthly salary, training, insurance, benefits, and other overhead expenses.
Expertise and perspective
As consultants and outsourced providers, vCIOs work with multiple clients from various industries and are routinely equipped with the latest information and training. This gives them more experience and a broader perspective on trends and available solutions that can benefit your business.
Some executives can be too close to a project and look at it through a biased lens. Biases can lead to missed opportunities and costly mistakes when solving company issues and implementing new technology.
With a vCIO, you gain access to opinions from an expert who sees the big picture and provides an unbiased perspective. This results in solutions that match your organization’s needs and promote growth and success.
Support from an entire IT team
A vCIO has an entire team of IT experts at their disposal. They may not be physically around, but qualified technicians are available 24/7 via phone or chat to address security concerns, automatically update systems, and troubleshoot issues. They may also provide on-site support when necessary.
Not physically present
If anything needs fixing and cannot be handled by your in-house staff, the vCIO will need to be dispatched. In addition, workers who are used to face-to-face interactions may view vCIO functions as a “loose connection” between the company’s IT department and the business.
Conflicts with in-house IT staff
Having a vCIO on board can cause confusion and major adjustments, especially when roles and responsibilities overlap.
Any new business relationship takes time to build trust, especially when someone is not physically available and has access to your entire network.
Pros and cons of a CIO
There is a strategic advantage to having the ability to report directly to a CIO. It allows all IT policies to originate from a single source and enables the company to better identify and communicate technology needs, as well as streamline the operational procedures to help effectively implement business IT goals.
Better risk management
A CIO is responsible for mitigating risks. When they can work closely with staff members, they can better recommend solutions that suit the company’s needs. Since they are on-site, they can directly oversee the IT infrastructure and have a more thorough understanding of the company and its dynamics, allowing them to implement data security methods more easily.
Better assessment of needs
Since a CIO frequently and directly liaises with various department heads, they can better assess which needs are being met and find ways to better support the organization in achieving its business objectives.
Some organizations may not even need a CIO, so hiring one becomes a bad investment based on the expensive salary that needs to be paid.
Redundancy in responsibilities
Having a CIO makes communication between the IT department and the CEO or president more challenging. The CEO can already communicate directly with the IT department, especially if your organization is small or medium-sized. Having a CIO only contributes to communication challenges between departments and can cause misalignment between IT and business.
Lack of solid leadership
Handling the entire IT structure encompasses a lot of responsibilities, and the CIO might not have a lot of time to directly oversee the IT staff. This can cause a leadership vacuum that reduces workplace morale and efficiency.
vCIO or CIO: which one is better?
Although a CIO is a critical role that drives the success of a growing business, hiring one full-time may be an impractical choice. The cost of hiring a CIO may cause a major drain on your budget, or you may not necessarily benefit from having a CIO in the first place.
In contrast, a vCIO can provide guidance and strategic thinking in a more cost-effective package. Since you only pay for the services you need, you can gain effective business leadership at a manageable cost. Your vCIO can serve as your trusted advisor who keeps you updated on the most advanced technology and how it can optimize cybersecurity, productivity, and organizational processes.
At Medicus IT, we do more than just run your medical organization — we help it transform and thrive. As a managed services provider, we offer vCIO services that include access to expert IT consultants who bridge the gap between business and IT to assist you in your digital transformation.
As our partner, you consistently receive expert insight and tailored solutions that help you utilize technology to boost productivity, improve patient outcomes, and grow your business. Contact Medicus today to learn more about how we can help transform your IT infrastructure and prepare your organization for the future.